Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

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well wisher
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Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by well wisher » Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:34 pm

Just wanted to confirm: would breatharians / Ineda practices be considered as extreme asceticism, in the view of the Buddha Dharma? Would such be considered too harmful or dangerous to even considered to be attempted? Or only experts with many years of training, should attempt such types of extreme practices?

Considering the story of Shakyamuni Buddha himself, who has taught that this type of practice was a form of extreme self mortification, possibly unnecessary and unwise. The traditional story goes that Shakyamuni Bodhisattva did attempt such similar extreme practices, going without food for many days meditating under the trees, right to near death's doorsteps, but unable to reach full enlighment. But then after he has taken up milk and rice offerings from Sujata the milkmaid, and only after then he was able to reach full enlightenment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sujata_(milkmaid)

But on the other hand, think of how much famine sufferings and deaths could be solved in this world, if people can actually live without food and water. And actually consider how much of modern world society is fighting wars, or enacting oppression with bickering strife upon one another, over such perceived "scarce planetary resources", including nutritious food and clean water. Maybe futuristic science can enable such lifestyle going without food and water, and solve this dilemma?
Related wiki article for consideration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inedia

Also there had been tales about some modern expert mediators, being able to continue without any food and water during prolonged intense meditation sessions - Including Buddhists, Yogis, Jains ... etc.. It does kind of make sense, that being very still would lead to minimal expenditure of energy, thus not needing food and water. And also I remember being taught that one of the highest stage of meditation is is the "turtle breath" stage, being able to breath through skin alone without using the nose or mouth, and being completely still, like a mummy. Although I am not sure if this was Taoist or Buddhist in historical context . Are these forms of the extremist practices, that might have gone against Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings itself?

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/sokushinbutsu
"The Monks Who Spent Years Turning Themselves into Mummies—While Alive"

P.S. To Admins: feel free to merge this into the Great Vegan / Vegetarian debates threads if you deem it such, it is related discussions after all.

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by truthb » Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:28 pm

well wisher wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:34 pm
Just wanted to confirm: would breatharians / Ineda practices be considered as extreme asceticism, in the view of the Buddha Dharma? Would such be considered too harmful or dangerous to even considered to be attempted? Or only experts with many years of training, should attempt such types of extreme practices?

Considering the story of Shakyamuni Buddha himself, who has taught that this type of practice was a form of extreme self mortification, possibly unnecessary and unwise. The traditional story goes that Shakyamuni Bodhisattva did attempt such similar extreme practices, going without food for many days meditating under the trees, right to near death's doorsteps, but unable to reach full enlighment. But then after he has taken up milk and rice offerings from Sujata the milkmaid, and only after then he was able to reach full enlightenment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sujata_(milkmaid)

But on the other hand, think of how much famine sufferings and deaths could be solved in this world, if people can actually live without food and water. And actually consider how much of modern world society is fighting wars, or enacting oppression with bickering strife upon one another, over such perceived "scarce planetary resources", including nutritious food and clean water. Maybe futuristic science can enable such lifestyle going without food and water, and solve this dilemma?
Related wiki article for consideration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inedia

Also there had been tales about some modern expert mediators, being able to continue without any food and water during prolonged intense meditation sessions - Including Buddhists, Yogis, Jains ... etc.. It does kind of make sense, that being very still would lead to minimal expenditure of energy, thus not needing food and water. And also I remember being taught that one of the highest stage of meditation is is the "turtle breath" stage, being able to breath through skin alone without using the nose or mouth, and being completely still, like a mummy. Although I am not sure if this was Taoist or Buddhist in historical context . Are these forms of the extremist practices, that might have gone against Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings itself?

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/sokushinbutsu
"The Monks Who Spent Years Turning Themselves into Mummies—While Alive"

P.S. To Admins: feel free to merge this into the Great Vegan / Vegetarian debates threads if you deem it such, it is related discussions after all.
While they appear to be almost the same on the surface, being a Breatharian is VERY different then extreme asceticism.

It has to do with the idea/intention behind it.

Asceticism says- denying, harming, starving the body is spiritual and will lead to liberation. Shakyamuni said- no it won't.

Breatharianism on the other hand says- you can live on energy- it is "higher" to do so, even more pleasurable... it's a kind of spiriitual achievement in a sense.

I don't think that the Buddha would say it is a particularly useful achievement, and certainly one not leading to Nirvanna.... but I don't think his criticism to asceticism applies here.
Paul Robert's life changing book on Amida Buddha- "Shin Buddhism 101"

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https://drive.google.com/file/d/10i4DCAGv-zj87g_cgMG3e3NIOPyb-AeK/view
Please visit my Jodo ShinShu Buddhism youtube channel- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB2JSy ... oFyP917KMA and offer feedback.

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by well wisher » Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:50 am

truthb wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:28 pm
While they appear to be almost the same on the surface, being a Breatharian is VERY different then extreme asceticism.

It has to do with the idea/intention behind it.

Asceticism says- denying, harming, starving the body is spiritual and will lead to liberation. Shakyamuni said- no it won't.

Breatharianism on the other hand says- you can live on energy- it is "higher" to do so, even more pleasurable... it's a kind of spiriitual achievement in a sense.

I don't think that the Buddha would say it is a particularly useful achievement, and certainly one not leading to Nirvanna.... but I don't think his criticism to asceticism applies here.
Yes, good points about the intentions.
It is also very concerning there had been several anecdotes, of those who attempted to achieve Breatharianism, that has perished & died earlier with organ functions.
I guess maybe it just does not work if the intention is for fame, like going on to T.V. shows to brag about achievements.
But just maybe, it has better chance of succeeding if it is truly for a last-ditch resort for survival, for those in truly dire poverty circumstances.

I guess maybe some of the reason why Breatharianism might not lead to full enlightenment, is prehaps it tends to be too close to the nihilist spectrum, ignoring material needs. Or maybe it is because of Skandhas / fetters present, the mental cravings for food, along all the undesirable constraints (like energy loss /atrophy) in this Saha world / Earth filled with laws and undesirable conditions. And Breatharianism might be the easy way out, and not really facing and overcoming the present challenges.

But at the very least, Breatharianism, if achievable, would be extremely useful in mundane everyday purposes.
And considering the increasing unfairness in resource distributions, and the widening wealth inequality and oppression in the current degenerate age, I can see it becoming more and more useful, especially for those who are disadvantaged and poor. It is like a survivalist's holy grail!

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by truthb » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:35 am

well wisher wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:50 am
truthb wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:28 pm
While they appear to be almost the same on the surface, being a Breatharian is VERY different then extreme asceticism.

It has to do with the idea/intention behind it.

Asceticism says- denying, harming, starving the body is spiritual and will lead to liberation. Shakyamuni said- no it won't.

Breatharianism on the other hand says- you can live on energy- it is "higher" to do so, even more pleasurable... it's a kind of spiriitual achievement in a sense.

I don't think that the Buddha would say it is a particularly useful achievement, and certainly one not leading to Nirvanna.... but I don't think his criticism to asceticism applies here.
Yes, good points about the intentions.
It is also very concerning there had been several anecdotes, of those who attempted to achieve Breatharianism, that has perished & died earlier with organ functions.
I guess maybe it just does not work if the intention is for fame, like going on to T.V. shows to brag about achievements.
But just maybe, it has better chance of succeeding if it is truly for a last-ditch resort for survival, for those in truly dire poverty circumstances.

I guess maybe some of the reason why Breatharianism might not lead to full enlightenment, is prehaps it tends to be too close to the nihilist spectrum, ignoring material needs. Or maybe it is because of Skandhas / fetters present, the mental cravings for food, along all the undesirable constraints (like energy loss /atrophy) in this Saha world / Earth filled with laws and undesirable conditions. And Breatharianism might be the easy way out, and not really facing and overcoming the present challenges.

But at the very least, Breatharianism, if achievable, would be extremely useful in mundane everyday purposes.
And considering the increasing unfairness in resource distributions, and the widening wealth inequality and oppression in the current degenerate age, I can see it becoming more and more useful, especially for those who are disadvantaged and poor. It is like a survivalist's holy grail!
Good points.... and like sitting with- the question... well, why would it not lead to full enlightenment?

:) Actually I am reminded The Buddha speaking in the Infinite Life Sutra that a Buddha can live one bowl of food for trillions of trillions of years! So I guess Breatharianism is a SIDE EFFECT of full enlightenment, not a cause. :)

Probably it is not a cause because it does not liberate from Tanha (thirst- attachment, aversion)
Paul Robert's life changing book on Amida Buddha- "Shin Buddhism 101"

Code: Select all

https://drive.google.com/file/d/10i4DCAGv-zj87g_cgMG3e3NIOPyb-AeK/view
Please visit my Jodo ShinShu Buddhism youtube channel- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB2JSy ... oFyP917KMA and offer feedback.

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Ayu » Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:37 pm

I think, for normal non-buddhas this kind of asceticism is just fake. People who strictly stick to it die.

A young German starved to death lately, because he believed in light-eating fanatically. In a documentary other light-eaters admitted that they eat food from time to time 'because they are weak". Actually those "weak" people survive while that man died at the age of twenty-something. He suffered from some kind of psychosis and overestimated his skills.

So, for people who think they're Jesus or Buddha such a kind of "nutrition" is life-endangering.
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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Sādhaka » Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:47 pm

In Buddhist/Bön terms, “breatharianism” is something that happens only when one is about to attain the Fruition of the Path, and has specific methods.

People can go a long time without food even as an ordinary person though; and prolonged fasts can really ‘reset’ your system and heal the body, especially if you can get some dry fasting in as well.


This girl did a 53+ day fast:







I didn’t follow her entire journey, but I’m assuming that she had the luxury of not having to work at an job during her prolonged fast.
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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Ayu » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:07 pm

Fasting is a wonderful thing.
Claiming to "eat" only air or light or nothing as a method like vegetarianism is very dangerous.

Dakinis are able to fly. But even if I'd like to learn how to become a dakini, I won't start by trying to fly. :sage:
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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by tatpurusa » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:38 pm

Breatharians try to confuse fasts with their propaganda.
These two are by no means the same.
Just like vegans try to confuse their propaganda with vegetarianism.
These two are by no means the same either.

If someone manages to live without food and drink for an infinite time, it is the spontaneous result of a certain level of practice.
It is never the result of prolonged fasts and asceticism.

In other words, fasting and prolonged fasts are a wonderful thing, if done the right way. It can result in many benefits, including health. But it never leads to the ability to live without food.

The siddhi of being able to live without food is also a wonderful thing, but it is not based on or even related to fasting or asceticism. It is the effortless and spontaneous result of completely different practices.

If someone tries to sell one for the other one can know that he is cheating.

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by well wisher » Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:56 pm

Thanks everyone for all the very insightful posts above. The evidences are overwhelming that fasting should not be taken lightly, easily leading to organ failures and earlier death.

It is just the very worrying about how unfair the current socioeconomic circumstances for many people in modern times. Those stuck in poverty would often have no choice, but to engage in at least some form of fasting for survival. And depending on how far the environmental deterioration goes from climate change, it might even become more widespread by necessity.

Also I am curious on exactly how many days can a person survive without food, according to Buddhist tradition?
There are various figures being provided over the internet; a person can survive longer if water is allowed.
The video above is an nice example of a girl surviving 53 days of fasting, even if its verity might be questioned.

- The general rule of 3 states: " You can survive for 3 Days without water (if sheltered from a harsh environment) " & "You can survive for 3 Weeks without food (if you have water and shelter)"
https://www.backcountrychronicles.com › wilderness-survival-rules-of-3

- Story about Japanese Tendai "Buddhist monk on Wednesday finished a grueling nine-day ritual of not eating, drinking, or sleeping as he chanted sutras 100,000 times"
https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/ques ... -and-sleep

Perhaps a really diligent Buddhist Dharma practitioner would be able to go on infinitely without food, like the above infinite life sutra stated.

A good corollary wish following this might be: "may all sentient be well, by being able to acquire the required/adequate nutrients easily, with minimal or no harm done to other sentient beings during the process. May no sentient beings die from thirst or starvation out of their control." :anjali:
Just wishful thinking :thinking: :roll:

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Ayu » Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:22 pm

Starvation is human beings history from the beginning. It's natural.

Nobody can say how long people can survive without any food. Depends on their conditions. An anorexic girl of 66 pounds won't survive long. Fat persons do this "zero-diet" for quite a time. But it is very unhealthy even for fat people.
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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Ayu » Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:22 pm

Starvation is human beings history from the beginning. It's natural.

Nobody can say how long people can survive without any food. Depends on their conditions. An anorexic girl of 66 pounds won't survive long. Fat persons do this "zero-diet" for quite a time. But it is very unhealthy even for fat people.
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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by tatpurusa » Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:07 pm

Ayu wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:22 pm
Starvation is human beings history from the beginning. It's natural.

Nobody can say how long people can survive without any food. Depends on their conditions. An anorexic girl of 66 pounds won't survive long. Fat persons do this "zero-diet" for quite a time. But it is very unhealthy even for fat people.
Fasting if done right is not starvation. It is a therapeutic measure.

Here is a documented case of someone fasting for 382 days, under medical control:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2495396/

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Jesse » Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:24 pm

Let's not forget that the human body requires nutrients other than simply calories. It requires Minerals, Vitamins, Enzymes, and numerous other thing's that our bodies extract from our food.

Without these, our bodies FAIL. When I say fail, I don't mean we get dizzy, or slightly sick.. Our eyes will cease to function, our brain function will shut down, our muscles will fail. Just as a side note, our lungs, and heart are muscles.

Something as simple as a Vitamin deficiency CAN kill you. (I recently had a serious B12 deficiency, and I eat mostly well, I began losing my eyesight, I was getting so dizzy, and nauseous I couldn't stand up, or stay awake. Simple cure, 6 weeks of b12 injections. Then making it a point to eat foods high in B vitamins afterwards. )


Fasting for short periods is probably fine, however spreading religious nonsense about eating air is dangerous. People engage in spiritual practices with a seriousness that can get them killed if they are being misled. They will ignore extream danger symptoms. They will feel severe shame, and guilt at the thought of 'failing'.. since you know, this thing they are doing is a spiritual practice.

I don't think we should even slightly entertain something so dangerous as a spiritual practice. It's stupid, it's dangerous, and someone will get hurt, or die.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Jesse » Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:46 pm

tatpurusa wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:07 pm
Ayu wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:22 pm
Starvation is human beings history from the beginning. It's natural.

Nobody can say how long people can survive without any food. Depends on their conditions. An anorexic girl of 66 pounds won't survive long. Fat persons do this "zero-diet" for quite a time. But it is very unhealthy even for fat people.
Fasting if done right is not starvation. It is a therapeutic measure.

Here is a documented case of someone fasting for 382 days, under medical control:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2495396/

This person was under medical supervision where they maintained a careful watch of his vitals and metabolic profile. He was also very likely given injections of specific minerals, and vitamins to keep him healthy.

This quote from the article you linked is actually serious:
Decreased plasma magnesium concentrations were a consistent feature from the first month onwards.
Consistent Low levels of magnesium in your blood will lead to heart, and lung failure. Metallic salts like magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, and others are what maintain correct electrical activity in our muscles that sustain life. Meaning the Heart, and Lungs. Both organs use electrical activity in a rhymic manner to pump blood and oxygen. When we have low levels of metallic salts(electrolytes) in our blood this electrical activity is disrupted, and the function of these organs becomes compromised. When this electrical activity in the heart is disrupted it causes varies types of ventricular tachycardia. ,
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by tatpurusa » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:16 pm

Jesse wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:46 pm
tatpurusa wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:07 pm
Ayu wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:22 pm
Starvation is human beings history from the beginning. It's natural.

Nobody can say how long people can survive without any food. Depends on their conditions. An anorexic girl of 66 pounds won't survive long. Fat persons do this "zero-diet" for quite a time. But it is very unhealthy even for fat people.
Fasting if done right is not starvation. It is a therapeutic measure.

Here is a documented case of someone fasting for 382 days, under medical control:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2495396/

This person was under medical supervision where they maintained a careful watch of his vitals and metabolic profile. He was also very likely given injections of specific minerals, and vitamins to keep him healthy.

This quote from the article you linked is actually serious:
Decreased plasma magnesium concentrations were a consistent feature from the first month onwards.
Consistent Low levels of magnesium in your blood will lead to heart, and lung failure. Metallic salts like magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, and others are what maintain correct electrical activity in our muscles that sustain life. Meaning the Heart, and Lungs. Both organs use electrical activity in a rhymic manner to pump blood and oxygen. When we have low levels of metallic salts(electrolytes) in our blood this electrical activity is disrupted, and the function of these organs becomes compromised. When this electrical activity in the heart is disrupted it causes varies types of ventricular tachycardia. ,
Thanks, but this is rather obvious (at least for me). This is why I wrote "... if done right ..." in my original post.
Fasting is very helpful and healthy, if done the right way. Of course it can be disastrous, even kill, if done the wrong way.
This is one of the reasons why I am against breatharianism.
The other one is that it is simply cheating IMO.

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Ayu » Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:07 pm

tatpurusa wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:07 pm
Ayu wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:22 pm
Starvation is human beings history from the beginning. It's natural.

Nobody can say how long people can survive without any food. Depends on their conditions. An anorexic girl of 66 pounds won't survive long. Fat persons do this "zero-diet" for quite a time. But it is very unhealthy even for fat people.
Fasting if done right is not starvation. It is a therapeutic measure.

Here is a documented case of someone fasting for 382 days, under medical control:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2495396/
This person had a starting weight of 207 kg, he was protected by doctors. And they had to take care of him closely. They supplied him with minerals and vitamins as necessary. Maybe he would have died soon, if he had not started this fasting.

I heard of a woman who started 100% fasting, because she was so unhappy to be fat. Diets are too slow, she thought. And no doctor took care of her. That sounds very risky.
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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by tatpurusa » Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:55 pm

Ayu wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:07 pm
I heard of a woman who started 100% fasting, because she was so unhappy to be fat. Diets are too slow, she thought. And no doctor took care of her. That sounds very risky.
If you know how to do it the right way it is not risky at all. I have been doing fasts, even prolonged ones (but not longer than 40 days at one stretch), for 40 years now practically every year and I have never had any problems.
Additionally, I have been eating only once a day (in the evening) for ca. 25 years.
I am 60 years old now and I have never been sick in my entire life (except for seasonal colds sometimes, by far not every year.)

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by well wisher » Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:26 pm

Thinking about benefits of Going without any food/Breathterism: it is an sure way to avoid harms to other sentient beings, whether directly or indirectly. And this is also one of the quickest way to selflessness & self-annihilation, albeit in a very extreme way.

However, its benefits or correctness still remains to be questioned. It is closer to nihilism than any other moderate ways.
And no doubt it would cause many sectors in society to collapse, if everyone were to engage in such practices, and by encouraging isolationism as well.

So I suppose this is an another example that show how extreme acts and obsession with "harmlessness" and "virtues" can become very harmful and even dangerous to oneself and the society in large!

Yet too much food / gluttony is also not good either, speaking on basic principles and easily proven by science (example: too much fat food= heart attack). So I do agree that intermediate fasting, if done carefully and properly, is definitely has is a great counter against such pitfall. Nobody should be eating food every single second.

(My guess is that an practitioner of breathism that died as a result of it, would most likely end up in the immaterial realms / emptiness heavens. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dha ... /loka.html -> The Immaterial World (arupa-loka) )

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by tatpurusa » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:16 pm

well wisher wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:26 pm
Thinking about benefits of Going without any food/Breathterism: it is an sure way to avoid harms to other sentient beings, whether directly or indirectly. And this is also one of the quickest way to selflessness & self-annihilation, albeit in a very extreme way.
I do not believe it is an act of selflessness. I would rather say it is a form of extremism. Self harm is by no means any better than harming others.
Compassion should always include oneself, otherwise it is just arrogance masquerading as compassion.

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Re: Is breatharians / going without any food a form of extreme asceticism?

Post by Ayu » Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:25 pm

tatpurusa wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:55 pm
Ayu wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:07 pm
I heard of a woman who started 100% fasting, because she was so unhappy to be fat. Diets are too slow, she thought. And no doctor took care of her. That sounds very risky.
If you know how to do it the right way it is not risky at all. I have been doing fasts, even prolonged ones (but not longer than 40 days at one stretch), for 40 years now practically every year and I have never had any problems.
Additionally, I have been eating only once a day (in the evening) for ca. 25 years.
I am 60 years old now and I have never been sick in my entire life (except for seasonal colds sometimes, by far not every year.)
It seems to me we agree without knowing it. :tongue:
The woman I was mentioning was eating nothing - no calories at all - for 100 days and she was determined to go on. I don't know, what happend to her, but my estimation was she did not care properly for herself.

I think, this should not be called fasting. It's hunger only. Fasting is wonderful and way too much neglected.
Breatharianism and Light-eating is not fasting, if someone follows it fanatically.
:namaste:
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